What is it about music?
The idea of music being a healing influence goes back centuries. In history, we know that its use has been well-documented. For example, during the world wars, musicians were invited to play for injured soldiers going through trauma.
Music can help to maintain a person’s quality of life or even improve it.
For carers, music can be beneficial by helping to lighten mood, helping create connections, reduce stress and bring back memories.
In this live event on Facebook, Katy Evans and Kate Legg discuss Music and dementia care, its benefits, and how it can help people to connect.
Some of the benefits of music
Reducing Loneliness, Improving well-being – For someone spending long periods alone, using music for company and comfort. The joy that music can bring to people individually and collectively.
Music can maintain or increase levels of physical, mental, social, and emotional functioning (Cochrane Review, 2013)
Stimulation – Stimulating music can help with daily activity such as personal care where it can help with movement. Examples could be music with percussion, beats such as swing or band music, music that makes people want to tap or clap. This could help in helping someone to dress or bathe.
Sensory – For people with hearing loss, there may be other ways of music helping create connection such as using instruments to help them feel rhythm, or being part of a group activity, photos being used for reminiscence of certain era’s that they may be part of.
Soothing – Music can be used in many ways to diffuse distress when it may be too late to use other activities. Singing or putting on a favourite piece of music can help to reduce the distress or anxiety that the person with dementia may be feeling as well as helping the carer.
This may be helpful if someone is agitated around sundowning hours.
It can help when preparing for bed by putting on soothing music and setting the scene to help the person relax (things like classical music or ballads).
Things to be mindful of when using music
Memories – There may be songs that trigger and cause different emotional reactions. There are times when this may not be appropriate for the person, but its also considering that its also ok to be sad.
Environment – Music can also be very distracting and at times it may cause additional distress.
Volume – Ensuring this is right for the person or group due to heightened senses.
Over-stimulation – At times where the person may need to relax.
Some ideas for music activities
Playlists – These can be very powerful in using specific songs that are from our musical memories. For example, there are wonderful videos of people with dementia having powerful reactions to music including Marta Gonzalez who was a prima ballerina and hears swan lake and starts to move to the music.
An idea is to have a playlist set-up on a tablet so that this could play favourite songs. This can be an activity set-up by a carer or one that can help bring connection.
Live music – Research shows the benefits of live singing and often care homes will have live singers because of the reaction that residents have to hearing someone singing live. There are resources online such as Songhaven and the BBC archives which offer concert videos. You Tube is also a good resource to look for specific bands or singers.
Singing activities – Singing for the brain, encouraging the connection between people. Using music to prompt memories such as starting a song that’s well-known or musical bingo. It is a good well-being activity for people with dementia, but also for carers. How many of us use music to help us to get through life’s moments? Some music helps us to feel happier, connecting with happy memories, or we can also be reminded of difficult, sad times.
Quick ideas for family carers – A quick sing-song, Making music to play along with, listening to favourite songs, live music, church/chapel service, themed quiz (see below), relax and pamper.
Useful links and resources
Please contact your local Alzheimers Society for information about Singing for the Brain sessions in your area.